At A Loss For Words


By Louise Ure


I have changed in many ways – some large, some small – since my husband died two and a half months ago. And not all of the changes have been bad.

I’ve lost almost forty pounds and grown stronger. I’ve taken on tasks that I previously thought I could never face and done them well. I even planted and grew a rose bush that looked more like a dowsing rod when I got it than a living plant.

I wound up replacing all my jackets, blazers, raincoats, vests and pocketed sweatshirts, not so much because of the weight loss as it was the mouse. Emboldened by the loss of the pup Cisco, my furry intruder screwed up his courage and scrambled his way into the pocket of each of my jackets where I kept the Charlie Bear dog treats for Cisco and his pals on the street. Then, fat and drowsy, he couldn’t climb out again, so he chewed through the bottom of each pocket in his escape. I tell you, I’m not putting cheese in the mouse trap anymore. I’m stuffing it with Charlie Bears.

But there have also been smaller, more insidious changes that I didn’t see coming and cannot explain.

I’ve suddenly become afraid of driving at night and have had to restructure my outings to venture forth only in daylight. One friend graciously humors me with 4:30 dinners at her house as if I were a Senior Citizen at an Early Bird buffet.

I can’t work crossword puzzles anymore. Remember my earlier facility with them? In ink. In three languages. In half the time of their “average solving.” It’s gone. I can’t even get the easy clues anymore.

And books hold less interest for me. I’m still reading, but taking no pleasure in either the world created there or the techniques the author used to bring that world to life. I hope that comes back.

And then there’s writing. Or, better stated, not writing.

I didn’t write at all during Bruce’s illness and decline; my mind only focused on him. But I also haven’t written during these ten weeks he’s been gone.

I am truly at a loss for words.

And part of me thinks that’s okay.

Unlike so many of my writer-brethren, I’ve never felt that writing defined me. I was successful and had accomplishments before I started writing and hope the same will someday be true again. Writing is one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever done and while I’m outrageously proud of the three books I’ve had published, I’d be perfectly happy if I never wrote another word again.

I’ve never felt “compelled” to write. Never felt that my day or my life would be incomplete without it.

I’m not here to announce my retirement from the writing community, at least not yet, but you’ll probably see more posts from me in the future that come from the point of view of a reader — an observer — rather than a writer. And what the hell, a reader’s slant might be a good addition here at Murderati.

In any case, it’s the best I can do. I have nothing to say.


Peace Out

46 thoughts on “At A Loss For Words

  1. Karen in Ohio

    Louise, it’s good that you’ve given yourself permission to go with the flow, rather than to beat yourself up about it. What would be the point, really?

    Totally empathize about the mice; I hate those meeses to pieces, too, the little mess makers.

    Sending you warm thoughts.

  2. JD Rhoades

    Well, i hope for selfish reasons that the writing comes back, because I love reading your work. But what happens, happens. You’re right not to try to force it, at least not right now. Hugs, Louise.

  3. Brett Batles

    Though you might not see it, in your sense of "nothing to say" you are saying so much. I will continue to look forward to each and every one of your post for all the insight (that you might not be aware of) that you bring. Thank you, Louise, for being such an important part of our family here.

  4. PK the Bookeemonster

    It’s okay to take the time to figure out who you are now under different circumstances. I feel that you are a creative person which doesn’t mean just writing for the public. Maybe this is a chance to explore other means of creative expression. You are a beautiful person no matter what paths you take.

  5. billie

    Louise, it is so early, still, and you have lost so much over the past year. I think it is incredibly wise to go with the flow, find the new normal, and just be with good friends while you find it. Sending lots of peace, calm, and love your way.

    (I just found out this week that the huge empty house across the lane is now owned by the Bank of NY – it has huge, gracious living space, many small bedrooms, 10 acres, a pond, a pool, and a big screen TV room – I keep thinking what a great little retreat center it would make for writers needing time away. Not time to write – but time to simmer and just be. In my little retreat center fantasy, you’d be the first guest!)

  6. Louise Ure

    PK, there are some things that have drawn my attention. Like taking care of my father-in-law in Bruce’s absence. Like the Arizona Immigration law. They may be an outlet for creativity.

    Wow, Billie, I’d be the first in line for that retreat. It sounds like nirvana.

  7. toni mcgee causey

    Louise, I’m just happy to have you in our lives, however you want that to be. Losing Bruce was a huge, unbelievable astronomically huge loss. There’s no way that won’t change you, and there’s no way to be "healed" from that. He was too amazing and too important for his loss to not have profound affects, and you’re still in the beginning stages of those affects. We want you, we love you, and we’re always going to want to hear what you have to say. [Though, like Dusty, I selfishly hope that the writing happens again, because for me, losing your voice would be a major loss.]

  8. Zoë Sharp

    My dear Louise

    Whatever I was going to say, Toni’s just said it far better than I ever could.

    So I’ll just add this, a small snippet from ‘Desiderata’ – one of my favourite poems.

    Be gentle on yourself.

  9. Maribeth

    Louise,this piece is a start. Right now you probably feel deep inside that you run the risk of replacing Bill with writing. What you don’t see yet it that writing is our gift to Bill.
    Write whatever you are comfortable with for now. Just don’t stop writing.
    The dark? Everyone is afraid of the dark, the unknown at different times in our lives. It’s been years for me and still there are times I won’t go out. Not as often but times.
    Your friends love you and will help. Those of us who read you are also here. We will be happy to read whatever you are ready to write.
    God bless!

  10. Alafair Burke

    Like JD, I selfishly hope that the urge to write grabs you once again. In the meantime, allow yourself some peace.

  11. Louise Ure

    Toni, Zoe, Alafair: It’s easier to "be gentle to myself" when you guys are so generous to show me how it’s done.

    And Maribeth, fit’s ironic that you replace "Bruce" with "Bill." Bill was the name of my eldest brother who died of the same kind of cancer when he was 29.

  12. Kaye Barley

    Louise, you are much loved and much respected in whatever role you find yourself now or in the future. I’m just tickled pink to be a small part of the world you make sparkle so.

  13. Rae


    The "best you can do" is just fine with us – and welcome to the readers’ side of the fence, it’s fun over here 😉

  14. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Well, Louise…your voice will be heard, you’ve got too much to say and you say it too well. I sense the pain in your words, maybe the anger even. Maybe it’s my anger I sense, angry that you are in such pain. There will be time for writing. There is no need to rush it. Writing is within you and it will emerge as you see opportunities to share your thoughts. I eagerly await each of your blog posts–reading Louise Ure is like mainlining a spiritual drug. You take me right to the core of things. I want to drop everything I’m doing and just sit in the presence of your thoughts. Your writing has that much of an effect on me. Even in a blog. Even from the viewpoint of a reader.

  15. JT Ellison

    Louise I second third and fourth all the thoughts above. just a side note – after all the stuff we dealt with last year – it took me over six months to get any sort of creative steam going again. I nearly missed my deadline because it just wasn’t there. I had nothing, writing seemed like a chore rather than a joy. Our bodies, our minds need time. Give yourself the time. Be gentle with yourself. Switch genres for your reading, and don’t forget to eat. 40 lbs is a big drop. Be like your mice – snuggle into a warm place and nibble. xoxo

  16. Tom

    "Never would have found Bruen if not for Louise," I realized last night. I’ve been reading A FIFTH OF BRUEN, with KB’s amazing poetical action-painted spatterings of story.

    Ten weeks of such hurting – I’m so sorry. As Brett, Alafair, billie and others have said, allow yourself some peace. It takes a year for dust to settle from such world-changing things as you’ve endured this year.

    Please keep telling us what you feel and what you see.

  17. Allison Davis

    Louise, the voice that has emerged from all your trials may be a different voice, and the treats may be gone from your pockets, but these moments are just what is now. Moving through grief and change is a dynamic and at each moment change occurs, but doesn’t define what the future will be, just what the present is for now.

    Deal with the weight loss (use this, eat better, take your calcium, walk more preferably at the beach), and the mouse (I had to toss a number of suits and coats because the mouse had eaten through all the shoulders as it trapsed across my closet — I plugged in one of those seemingly fake repellant thingys and it never came back)…get new jackets and some new jeans. Be love and care to Bruce’s daddy who doesn’t have anyone else.

    And then see where you are. Enjoy the light of summer. And you are writing…and we’re listening. Come and out and play when you’re ready, we miss you at MWA. love. a

  18. Louise Ure

    Stephen and JT, such good friends, such good advice. And I love the image of nibbling my way back to health protected in a soft, dark pocket.

    Tom, I’m glad I gave you Bruen. That is a gift without price.

    Allison, I’ll let you know when I’m ready for that sunlight walk.

  19. Karen Olson

    Your voice comes through so strongly in this post and every post since Bruce became ill, so you certainly haven’t lost it along the way. But it’s coming out in a different way, not in a novel but in putting your thoughts down here. Have you ever considered a memoir?

  20. anony mouse

    "It’s not real unless you say it out loud." ….adding some distance between oneself and the tears…..

    I know it must seem like such a long time to be without Cisco and Bruce. You are young and are thinking you have 30 some years to be alone. But it isn’t going to be that way. You can’t see that now. You do have to let each day carry you along like everyone has said. This grieving thing is a real bastard. A friend of mine, knowing what a depressive insomniac I am, always reminds me to drink a lot of water and to breathe deeply and completely and WALK. Just head out your door and walk as far as you can and let your eyes and mind wander along atop your legs.

    Two months …..

    "To force amaryllis, place bulb in a cool, dark place for two months, with no water. Then bring it to a brightly lit place, increasing watering as leaves form. Feed lightly every two weeks through flowering period."

    Gardeners (and some writers) have it all in perspective. Just follow the directions and you will flower again. It’s nature.

    Maybe you need to get thee to a brightly lit place. Arizona ? It’s always been your inspiration, right?

    You can do this, Louise. Just don’t say it out loud. Everything seems meaningless now but a meaning will find it’s way to you. Not for awhile. But it will. You know this.

    Remember how Bruce never stopped believing in you and your first book? What makes you think he has stopped now?

  21. Louise Ure

    Karen, after reading Didion’s "Year of Magical Thinking, I know no memoir from me would measure up.

    Thank you for those kind words, Matthew. Coming from you, they’re especially strong.

    And Sweet Mouse, I hadn’t realized how much like a dormant amaryllis my life his been. Thank you for reminding me of my words, and my previous strength.

  22. pari noskin taichert

    I don’t think you have any idea how powerful your words are, how poignant and honest. The posts you’ve blessed us with during your entire time at Murderati have been incredibly meaningful and thought-provoking . . . heartfelt. And stunningly written.

    Of course I second, third and fourth all that’s been said above. May I add an observation more?

    Your mind and heart have been focusing on so many grays and browns, so many blacks and bleaks, that it’s going to take more than a few months to begin to see joyful colors again. I have the impression that your entire psyche is exhausted.

    Be gentle with yourself.
    Let the journey wind its way forward. There’s no need right now to do any more than that.

  23. Jeanne in MN

    You have to allow yourself time to grieve. The death of a loved one is not something you "get over." The pleasure you took from reading and other joys in your life will gradually return. The story of the fat mouse in your pockets made me laugh (and I will make sure from now on that there is no food in my pockets).

  24. Judy Wirzberger

    Louise, I love you – get yourself to a professional. Depression – even when you have excellent reasons to be depressed- is insidious. Sometimes it’s worse when you have a reason because your friends know you are fragile. Yes, you are fragile — get professional assistance. Don’t bully through this alone. You don’t have to feel as dark as you feel. Call today. Go, I’m begging you with every ounce of love and respect I have for you.

  25. Louise Ure

    Jeanne, there truly should be a children’s book called "A Mouse in my Pocket." Or an adult book with Rat in the title.

    I know, Judy. And I’ve joined an online support group. But these things take time.

  26. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Louise, my heart hurts for you. You are so raw, the veil hasn’t even closed between life and death yet. You couldn’t possibly be expected to write, now. You will, in all kinds of ways, when you feel it again. Your only task now is to heal and let yourself be loved. And you are.

  27. Barbie

    Louise, I don’t know you, but your post is so honest and heartfelt, it brought tears to my eyes.

    I hope you can find peace and comfort in your heart once again, and keep finding things in your life which will give you that, no matter what they are.

    Big hug to you!


  28. KDJames / BCB

    Louise, I hesitate to comment because I can imagine how draining it is for you to reply to each one.

    If Sol Stein is right, and I think he is, that the purpose of fiction is to evoke emotion, it is completely understandable that you have no desire to write it. Or read it.

    Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and one day you will look back and be surprised by how far you have traveled, physically and every other way. It takes time. A long time. As others have said, be good to yourself.

    Writing may not define you, but you are a writer. Your voice is unique and beautiful. I’ll be happy to read your words even if all you have to say for the next little while is, "I’m here."

  29. Spencer Seidel

    Louise —

    I’m a newbie here, so I feel weird commenting on something so personal and heartfelt, but I hope you find the writing beat again. Taking time away to reevaluate is normal and healthy.


  30. Sandy

    Two years ago when I was at my second Book Passage conference, I took a leap and submitted pages for review. By a stroke of luck, I drew you. You asked me why I had submitted ten pages of the third chapter; and when I explained that it was when the amateur sleuth first began sleuthing, you nodded, smiled, and said you thought so. You then asked me why I was telling the story in the third person instead of the first. And you forced me to think. When our conference had used up most of the time allotted for lunch, you invited me to join you at a table; and I asked question after question about writing — question after question that you graciously and thoroughly answered.
    I was a teacher of English and public speaking for 33 years in a public high school in Connecticut. I retired in 2005. I know grammar backwards and forwards and often "mind edit" as I read or as I listen. I qualify "mind edit" because I have been known to voice edit many of those to whom I listen or whom I read. But the time I spent with you that day taught me so very much about writing and about teaching. Avenues abound because your talents abound.
    Right now, you may not know the names of those streets. But I know they are there. Thanks, Louise, for sharing so very many pathways.

  31. Fran

    In her latest/upcoming book, Val McDermid has one of the characters observe that there is a definite disconnect when there is a huge loss. There’s the time Before and the time After, and those two times will never fully mesh.

    I have observed that we are re-formed during these disconnect times, and the changes, while not always permanent (you may in fact drive at night again, who knows?), are always influential.

    You have been profoundly changed, my friend. Anyone who expects you to be as you were has never experienced a disconnect time. Where you go on this new journey is anyone’s guess, but I’ll be pleased to be at least a passing part of it, because whatever changes you have and are experiencing, you are still a fabulous and wonderful person, and I’m honored knowing you.

  32. Louise Ure

    Spence, thank you. Newbies often have the clearest insight.

    Sandy, I remember you fondly and well. Thank you for those sweet words.

    And Fran, ah yes, the Before and After. That says it all.

  33. Robert Gregory Browne

    I’m coming in here very late, Louise, after powering down yesterday trying to pretend I’m actually going to make m deadline. A loss as devastating as the one you suffered certainly does change you, there’s no doubt about it. I know I changed when my father died many years ago.

    As for writing, there’s a certain amount of energy needed to do it, and I’m sure it’ll be a while before you find it again. But you will. And you may well find that your writing is an even deeper and more satisfying experience than ever.

    But grieving takes time. A lot of it. And the key is to take your time doing it. The rest of the world can wait.

  34. Lil Gluckstern

    Just a reader writing to tell you that your loss is too large to quantify and to be as kind to yourself as you would to a good friend. To paraphrase, the soul and the body have their rhythms. Trust yourself, and give yourself time.

  35. Barbara_NY

    I was compelled to write this sliver of a reply. Your piece above moved me. For someone with nothing to say you said it very well. I’ll be here, waiting, until you fell you do.


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